Tips for travelling in Tokyo
The Tokyo subway is full of curves and swerves to manoeuvre as it is made up of different transport companies intertwining together into one network.
If you can figure it out without a hitch, then it is safe to say that you will be able to survive any other train systems in the world. Aside from the close proximity of each train stations that makes one mistakenly thought that they are all connected, the signs are sometimes far and few, not to mention misleading.
Below are some basic information a foreigner needs to orientate themselves. And hopefully with some luck, you will be spared from having to pull your hairs in frustration
Stick to the major contenders
The bigger transport companies are JR, Tokyo Metro and Toei. JR alone has many lines running across Tokyo, and not just the famous Yamanote line. And yes. Tokyo Metro is not referring to the whole Tokyo train system but rather is the name of a transport company, such as SMRT vs SBS Transit’s NorthEast Line. As such, your best bet would be to stick to these 2 major companies when travelling within Tokyo, because it is unlike in Singapore, where you can change lines of different companies and not have to exit the gantry. And by exiting the gantry, it would mean that you would have to buy a separate ticket for just that one trip.
Get train passes that’s meant for tourist only
There are several type of train passes, but the ones that I find most useful is JR’s Tokunai pass and Tokyo Metro’s Tokyo Subway Ticket. While the former can be used on the JR Yamanote line, the latter can be used on both Tokyo Metro and Toei subway lines, which is more than sufficient in covering the whole network. (For the difference between the two, refer to Tips on how to choose a hotel in Tokyo)
These 2 options are cheaper than dozen other ones in the market, but they are only useful should you intend to cover a few places in that day. The lowest price on the JR line is 140 yen, and Tokyo Metro 170 yen. Therefore, you would need at least 5-6 short trips in order to make it worthwhile to purchase. Check the fare of your itinerary on hyperdia (for JR) and Tokyo Metro fare calculator to be sure.
Pasmo or Suica?
When it comes to convenience, nothing beats having a rechargeable card for your travel needs. Not only do you not need to have coins in your possession all the time, the few yens that you save over time from a trip can add up to earn you another trip. For example, should you use the rechargeable IC cards it costs 165 yen instead of 170 yen. Believe it or not, this is something I had JUST started doing, after what seems like, 10 trips to Tokyo! (What was I thinking)
So should you choose Pasmo or Suica? Except the fact that both of them are offered by Tokyo Metro and JR respectively, they do not have any difference in their usage. BUT, while Suica charges 220 yen for refunds done on their cards, Pasmo refunds are F.O.C FREE OF CHARGE! Therefore, the answer is clear. Clearly, Pasmo can only be purchased at Tokyo Metro stations and Suica at JR stations.